Archaeologists are hailing the discovery of an “extraordinary cache” of cannabis found in an ancient burial in northwest China, saying that the unique find adds considerably to our understanding of how ancient Eurasian cultures used the plant for ritual and medicinal purposes.
In a report in the journal Economic Botany, archaeologist Hongen Jiang and his colleagues describe the burial of an approximately 35-year-old adult man with Caucasian features in China’s Turpan Basin. The man had been laid out on a wooden bed with a reed pillow beneath his head.
Thirteen cannabis plants, each up to almost three feet long, were placed diagonally across the man’s chest, with the roots oriented beneath his pelvis and the tops of the plants extending from just under his chin, up and alongside the left side of his face. (Read how Eurasian gold artifacts tell the tale of drug-fueled rituals.)
Radiocarbon dating of the tomb’s contents indicates that the burial occurred approximately 2,400 to 2,800 years ago.
This discovery adds to a growing collection of archaeological evidence showing that cannabis consumption was “very popular” across the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago, says Jiang.